Blog, Lifestyle, Retirement Planning

On the Road: Are You Cut Out for the RV Lifestyle?


Many folks who are counting down the last few days until retirement have a date circled in red on the calendar: the day when they cash the check for the sale of their home, climb into their RV, and hit the highway, headed for wherever they want to go: so long to mortgage payments, lawnmowing, school schedules and soccer practices, and all the other duties that accompany life at a fixed address. For the adventurous at heart, the open road has an irresistible call, and the prospect of moving around the country at will is enticing.

Of course, most of us also know that the RV life isn’t all fun and games. As you plan your transition from the located lifestyle to full-time road warrior, there are a few things you should take into consideration. In fact, even the most experienced and committed RV-ers will tell you that the highway life comes with some complications and limitations that you need to know about. Let’s take a look at three major ones.

  1. RVs aren’t cheap. In fact, owning an RV is much like buying a house—on wheels. The more room and extras you require, the more you’ll pay, both for the purchase and for the maintenance. Recreational vehicles fall into three general categories.
  • Class C: usually features a large truck cab attached to an RV chassis. These typically run $50,000–200,000
  • Class B: basically vans, fitted out with a bed and other furnishings and often a water tank and a toilet. They can price in the $80,000–200,000 range.
  • Class A: large, bus-like vehicles that function much like a self-propelled mobile home (think of a rock star’s tour bus), with showers, large beds, sitting areas, sinks, toilets, and even kitchen appliances. Class A RVs can go anywhere from $60,000 to $500,000 or more.

Those more economy-minded may prefer tow-behind travel trailers, which are typically the most affordable, ranging from a small pop-up trailer that can be purchased for $6,000 to the large, fifth-wheel trailers that can go anywhere from $12,000 to $80,000.

And don’t forget; unless you’re pulling a trailer with a pickup or similar vehicle, you’ll probably want a car you can tow behind your RV (a “toad,” in RV-er lingo). After all, when you’re parked at the campground and you get a hankering for pizza, it’s not very practical to drive your 45-foot motorhome into town.

  1. RVs require upkeep. Just like a house (which RV-ers refer to as “sticks and bricks”), an RV has to be maintained. Unlike your car, however, RV maintenance goes beyond the engine, power train, brakes, and tires. Depending on how lavishly your vehicle is furnished, you may also need to pay for appliance repair, redecorating (who wants to live in a space that’s stuck in the 1980s?), wastewater system upkeep, heating and cooling systems, and other maintenance needs. Also unlike your sticks-and-bricks home, RVs depreciate in value, year after year.
  1. RVs are costly to fuel and insure. Especially with fuel prices these days, the cost to keep your RV’s tank full can add up quickly. Most Class A RVs will average around eight miles per gallon, so a 150-gallon tank yields a cruising range of about 1,200 miles. Based on today’s gasoline prices, each fill-up will set you back around $450. Diesel-powered RVs get better mileage, but they’re also more expensive to purchase, and diesel prices are higher than for gasoline. Insuring your RV is another thing to consider. While most auto insurance policies will provide basic coverage for a pull-behind trailer, extra protection for things like campsite liability (damage that occurs off the road), emergency expenses (if your RV breaks down for an extended period of time and you incur costs for lodging and transportation), and other add-ons can easily run the annual premium for your coverage in excess of $1,500.

For those who think they’d like to sample the RV life before committing to a purchase, there’s a network of “Airbnb for RVs” that will allow you to try before you buy. Many RV dealers, for example, will rent vehicles for a limited period of time, and the website allows users to match their travel plans with available rental vehicles.

Whether you long for the freedom of the open road or plan to stay in your home among friends and family, enjoying a secure and satisfying retirement requires good advice and a well-designed plan. As a fiduciary financial advisor and wealth manager, Aspen Wealth Management is dedicated to helping our clients reach their unique retirement goals. To learn more, visit our website to read our article, “Will I Have Enough Income? Your Answer Is in the Budget.”


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.


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